Misprescription of antibiotics in primary care: a critical systematic review of its determinants

J Eval Clin Pract. 2012 Apr;18(2):473-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2010.01610.x. Epub 2011 Jan 6.


Background: Antibiotic resistance is one of the principal public health problems worldwide. Currently, inappropriate use of antibiotics is regarded as the principal determinant of resistance, with most of these drugs being prescribed outside a hospital setting. This systematic review sought to identify the factors, attitudes and knowledge linked to misprescription of antibiotics.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted using the MEDLINE-PubMed and EMBASE databases. The selection criteria required that papers: (1) be published in English or Spanish; (2) designate their objective as that of addressing attitudes/knowledge or other factors related with the prescribing of antibiotics; and (3) use quality and/or quantity indicators to define misprescription. The following were excluded: any paper that used qualitative methodology and any paper that included descriptive analysis only.

Results: A total of 46 papers that met the inclusion criteria were included in the review. They were very heterogeneous and displayed major methodological limitations. Doctors' socio-demographic and personal factors did not appear to exert much influence. Complacency (fulfilling what professionals perceived as being patients'/parents' expectations) and, to a lesser extent, fear (fear of possible complications in the patient) were the attitudes associated with misprescription of antibiotics.

Conclusions: Before designing interventions aimed at improving the prescription and use of antibiotics, studies are needed to identify precisely which factors influence prescribing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*
  • Primary Health Care*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents